Is Essie cruelty free? Here’s what you need to know.

Love Essie’s nail colors, but also love animals? Me too! It’s important to know which brands test on animals and which don’t, so you can make informed decisions about the products you buy. So, is Essie cruelty free? Here’s everything you need to know about Essie and animal testing.

No time to read a whole post?

Then here’s the short answer to is Essie cruelty-free?:

Essie is NOT currently certified as cruelty-free by either Peta or Leaping Bunny. Essie claims that they don’t test products on animals. However, they are owned by L’oreal, a company that appears on Peta’s companies that do test on animals list. It is therefore unclear whether they are actually cruelty-free.

But there’s a little more to the story than that. So, let’s dig deeper.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is cruelty-free beauty?

The words “cruelty-free” are used a lot in the beauty industry.

But what do they mean exactly?

Generally speaking, if a product is cruelty-free, it means that no animals have been harmed while creating and/or testing that product.

The term is used most often in reference to cosmetics, but it can apply to other products as well, like clothing or cleaning supplies.

Cruelty-free is a bit different from vegan, but the two terms often overlap.

You see, there are lots of animal-derived substances that are used to make nail polish.

Guanine for example (aka pearl essence) is a substance used to add shimmer that actually comes from fish scales.

Carmine is made by boiling and crushing female cochineal insects and is used to add color, particularly to red nail polish.

If nail polish is labeled as “vegan” it means that the product does not contain any of these animal-derived products.

If it’s labelled as “cruelty-free” it means that no animal testing was involved.

But, as you can tell from the above example a nail polish can be considered “cruelty-free” but still cause harm to living creatures (if carmine is used).

Why do people want cruelty-free nail polish?

People care about cruelty-free beauty for a variety of reasons.

Some people (myself included) feel strongly that animals should not be harmed for the sake of human vanity.

The experiments conducted on animals are often horrific and deadly.

As PETA explains, some of these tests:

“involve dripping substances into their eyes, smearing products onto their shaved or scraped skin, or forcing them to ingest or inhale huge quantities of chemicals.”

Quote is taken from Peta.org – “Vegan nail polish brands that don’t test on animals“.

Others may have environmental concerns, or they may simply prefer to use products with fewer chemicals in them, which is often the case with cruelty-free products.

Whatever the reason, more and more consumers are looking for cruelty-free options when they shop for beauty products.

How can I tell if a product is cruelty-free?

Marketers can sometimes be tricksters. They know that consumers want cruelty-free products and they will use that to their advantage.

So, how can you tell if a product is really cruelty-free?

The first step is to look for the bunny logo.

Many cruelty-free beauty companies are certified by one of two organizations: Leaping Bunny or PETA.

PETA has 3 main logos. They all have the bunny ears and the following words on them to say exactly what each one means:

  • Animal test free
  • Both animal test free and vegan
  • Peta approved (only used in Europe)

The animal test-free logo means that neither the company nor its suppliers condone, conduct, or fund animal testing in any form anywhere in the world.

The animal test-free plus vegan logo means that the brand’s entire product line is also free from animal-derived products.

If a product is Leaping Bunny certified, it means that the company conducts no animal testing anywhere in the world or at any stage of develEssieng the product.

It also means that the brand did not buy any ingredients that were tested on animals.

To be Leaping Bunny certified, companies must also be open to annual audits to check that cruelty-free standards are being maintained.

You can read the whole Leaping Bunny standards here.

Is Essie cruelty-free?

There’s a lot of conflicting information about whether Essie is cruelty-free or not.

Here’s what we know.

Despite many attempts by various organizations (and individuals) to get clarity on the cruelty-free issue, no one seems to be able to get a straight answer from Essie.

When asked about animal cruelty, they typically respond by saying something along the lines of “we don’t condone animal testing…..however…” Obviously, this is a red flag.

For example, here’s a short snippet from an email response Essie gave after they claimed to be against animal testing:

Certain health authorities may nevertheless decide to conduct animal tests themselves for certain cosmetic products, as it is still the case in China. L’Oréal has been the most active company working alongside the Chinese authorities and scientists for over 10 years to have alternative testing methods recognized, and permit the cosmetic regulation to evolve towards a total and definite elimination of animal testing.

Source – Ethical elephant.com

As you can see, Essie is quoting L’oriel’s policies and also acknowledging that China requires all cosmetic products to be tested on animals by law.

Since the reply talks about L’oriel, it is reasonable to assume that Essie’s animal testing policy is adopted from its parent company (L’oriel).

Is the company that owns Essie cruelty-free?

You might think that Essie is an independent company, but Essie is actually partly owned by L’oriel.

Loriel is Essie’s parent company, which means that Loriel has a controlling interest in Essie.

L’oriel is not cruelty-free. In fact, L’oriel appears on Peta’s companies that do test on animals list.

So even if Essie does not test on animals, if you buy their products you are giving money to L’oriel.

L’oriel is a company that allows, funds, and profits from animal cruelty.

Let’s take note of the fact that in the above email response, Essie talks about China as an exception.

This highlights that even if Essie does not test its products on animals themselves, they may still pay for the mandatory testing to be done in order to legally sell their nail polish in China.

This means that Essie can not be considered to be cruelty-free, because by selling in China they are funding cruel and deadly animal testing.

Essie products have been sold in China in the past.

However, they claim that they no longer sell or distribute in China, but this has yet to be confirmed.

If they have stopped selling in China, (and it’s unclear when and if they have) there’s no reason to believe that this is a permanent decision.

As they have said, “L’Oréal has been the most active company working alongside the Chinese authorities”.

So the door is almost certainly still open.

Does Essie test on animals?

Essie claims that they do not test on animals.

Here’s a quote from their website:

“essie brand does not test on animals. As a L’Oréal brand, our company does not test any of its products or any of its ingredients on animals and has been at the forefront of alternative testing methods for over 30 years.”

However, as of April 2022, they are not certified as cruelty-free by either Leaping Bunny or Peta.

So, basically, there’s no one holding Essie accountable right now.

We can not say with any surety whether Essie’s finished products or ingredients are tested on animals.

We also don’t know for sure if they use 3rd party suppliers that conduct animal testing, or if they sell their products in places like China where animal testing is legally required.

Are Essie nail polishes vegan?

Again, this is a controversial subject.

Since the end of 2020, Essie’s marketing has stated that all their polishes are 100% vegan.

But in 2022, they still do not have an accreditation from a recognized body like Leaping Bunny or Peta.

I couldn’t find anything about them applying for one, either.

Seems strange, no?

If you ask Vegan organizations, they will advise you to stay away from Essie nail polishes because the company falls into a “gray area”.

Essie needs to be more clear and more transparent in providing information.

Without an official endorsement from a recognized and trusted body, we can’t be sure that their marketing lines up with their practices.

So, unfortunately, it’s unclear whether or not their products are completely free from animal-derived products and animal cruelty.

Final thoughts

Essie is a nail polish company that has been in business for over 40 years. They are not certified as cruelty-free by either Leaping Bunny or Peta, and they have not applied to be on the list of companies recognized by these organizations.

This means that it’s unclear whether Essie products are vegan, tested on animals, or sold in countries where animal testing is required by law.

The company needs to be more clear and transparent about its practices if they want to be considered cruelty-free.

Until then, I would recommend avoiding Essie products.